MLB bold predictions: The Rockies' Jon Gray and the Astros' Lance McCullers Jr. will have breakout years
The 25-year-old Gray acquitted himself well as a rookie, becoming just the fifth Rockies pitcher under the age of 25 to post a qualifying season with an ERA+ of at least 100 (106, via a 4.61 ERA) and setting a team record for strikeout rate (9.9 per nine). Pitching half his games in Coors Field, he won't have an easy time keeping his ERA below 4.00, but as he gains confidence in his power curveball—a relatively new companion to his mid-90s heater—bet on him to continue showing everybody why the Rockies took him with the third pick of the 2013 draft.
McCullers, a 2012 supplemental first-round pick for the Astros, has sparkled at the big league level since breaking in back in May 2015. So far, he owns a 3.22 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine, albeit in just 206 2/3 big league innings; he was limited to 81 last year due to elbow and shoulder issues but has tweaked both his mechanics (to alleviate stress on his arm) and his arsenal (adding a circle change to his own mid-90s fastball and power curve) and is good to go for the season. If he can stay healthy, he’ll pitch his way into the AL Cy Young conversation.